Staying Safe in Bitter Cold Temperatures

Staying Safe in Bitter Cold Temperatures

Cold weather can be more than inconvenient; it can be downright dangerous.

Being exposed to very cold temperatures for any duration of time can leave people vulnerable to the effects of frostbite and/or hypothermia.

According to Tom Waters, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic, it’s important to know the signs of frostbite as the temperatures outdoors begin to plummet.

“One of the first signs or symptoms is you start to see skin changes and you lose sensation in that hand,” Waters said. “And the important thing is that you don’t rub it to get it warm, you actually need to get out of the cold and start re-warming the area.”

Frostbite occurs when the skin is directly exposed to the cold – and the colder it is outside, the less time it takes to experience the effects of frostbite.

Waters said that in severe cases, frostbite can lead to amputation of fingers or toes, so it’s important to recognize the signs early. He said losing feeling in extremities is a sign that it’s time to seek emergency care right away.


Another cold-weather danger to beware of is hypothermia.

“Some of the warning signs that you’re getting hypothermic are that you start to maybe get a little bit lethargic, a little confused,” said Waters.

Other symptoms include swelling of the face and slurred speech.

Waters said that folks who are affected by hypothermia may not know it, so if you notice that a loved one is acting confused, take them to the hospital right away.

Hypothermia is dangerous because it can lead to cardiac arrest if left untreated.

Waters said feeling pain or starting to shiver are warning signs that it’s time to come inside.

Be Prepared
Waters said the key to staying safe in the cold is to be prepared.

“Be prepared before you go outside,” he explained. “Be prepared before you go driving in the cold weather; making sure you have everything you need. Dressing in layers is also very key – and staying dry. You want to make sure that you keep your clothes dry because once you get wet, you get cold a lot quicker.”

— Submitted by Cleveland Clinic News Service

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